Cold or flu? Prevention is best

Woman blowing her nose. Creative Commons attribution http://www.flickr.com/photos/mcfarlandmo/4014611539/Posted January 19, 2012 

Adapted from a Wellness Works article, a publication of FCHP

It was not my favorite way to wake up – waking from a dream about being too hot, too thirsty. It was a classic “fever dream.”

The clock said 2 a.m. It was technically Monday, a work day. But at that moment I had a throbbing sore throat, the chills, and the aches and pains of a fever.

It was not going to be a good morning.

I took some ibuprofen, drank a glass of water and went back to bed. But was kept awake worrying – did I have the cold or was it the flu?

Which is it?

A cold and influenza (“the flu”) have a lot in common. Both are respiratory illnesses caused by viruses, and they hare many symptoms in common:

  • General aches and pains
  • A stuffy nose
  • Sore throat

However, the flu is not just a major cold; it’s caused by different viruses. Symptoms are often more intense and last longer.

Flu symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Exhaustion

What now?

Unfortunately, antibiotics, which attack only bacteria, won’t cure a cold or the flu because each is caused by a virus. The best that medication can do is treat the symptoms and relieve discomfort.

The best advice is what my mom would tell me when I felt sick -- get lots of sleep and drink plenty of water. Chicken soup and fever-reducers are helpful, too.

Prevent it!

Neither a cold nor flu are fun. And, both illnesses are highly contagious. Take steps to prevent getting sick:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes or mouth with your hands
  • Cough into your sleeve, not your hands.

And so it goes

It wasn't flu for me -- but it was a nasty cold that made its rounds through my lungs and sinuses. It was tough, and it took me about three weeks to start feeling "human" again.

Here's to a healthy new year!

Blogged by Katie Crommett

Photo credit: mcfarlandmo

Cool facts about cold and flu

  • One sneeze, which can contain billions of viruses, acts like a cannonball, spreading germs into the air at hurricane force (100 mph!)
  • Rhinoviruses (colds) can live up to three hours in the air or on surfaces. 
  • Flu viruses can live up to 12 hours on cloth and tissues and up to 48 hours on some nonporous surfaces, like stainless steel.